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Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wants to ban local casino operators from bid for proposed convention center hotel

@joeflech and @doug_hanks

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wants to ban any operator of a Miami-Dade casino resort from running a headquarters hotel for a renovated Miami Beach Convention Center.

On Monday, Levine told the Miami Herald he does not want the developer or hotel operator for the proposed convention center hotel to be involved with any gaming operations now or in the future in Miami-Dade County.

“The city of Miami Beach is anti-gaming,” he said. “Anyone can bid on this project, as long as they align philosophically with Miami Beach.”

At 4 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, the City Commission will discuss the language of a solicitation, or request for proposals, to attract developers to the hotel project, which would need a final approval from 60 percent of the Beach’s voters. Levine said he's proposing adding language to the solicitation making it mandatory for whichever firm wins the bid to not have any direct or indirect gaming interests in the county.

Levine also touted the anti-casino proposal in his Monday address to a luncheon of the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

"We have been adamantly against the expansion of gambling in Miami-Dade County," Levine said of Miami Beach. 

He said a major casino would hurt Miami Beach's tourism industry, be it a "5000-room casino hotel in downtown Miami which is going to hurt and destroy" small businesses, or a casino resort on Miami Beach that would "be a big black hotel that will take away from the restaurants and all the other hotels." 
 
He didn't mention the two companies that want to build the casinos Levine described: Genting, the Malaysian casino company that proposed a 5,000-room gambling resort in downtown Miami, or the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, which has lobbied for a change in state gambling laws to let it bring a casino to its sprawling hotel.
 
"Genting can bid," he said in an interview. "The Fountainbleau can bid. As long as they agree to the terms."
 
Miami-Dade has already approved a $1.5 million yearly subsidy for debt payments on a headquarters hotel at the convention center, should Miami Beach build one. County officials said Monday they weren't aware of an anti-casino proviso on the hotel proposal.
 
Both Genting and the Fontainebleau's parent company, Turnberry, were significant campaign contributors to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. 

Beach politicians have asserted their stance as anti-gaming in the past. We’ll see how the discussion goes Tuesday afternoon.

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